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Speech by Morgan Johansson at UNHCR High-level meeting on global responsibility sharing through pathways for admission of Syrian refugees


Geneva 30 March 2016.
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Secretary-General, Mr High Commissioner, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with mixed feelings that I am back in Geneva for the second time participating in a High-level meeting on resettlement and other forms of responsibility sharing for Syrian refugees. I am of course happy to see the strong interest and high level of attendance at this meeting. At the same time I am saddened, as this is a stark reminder of the continued outflow of desperate people from Syria that we have witnessed since we last meet here in Geneva in December 2014, and that the need for solidarity and responsibility sharing with Syrian refugees is today greater than ever before.

The quantum leap in terms of the number of people in need of protection that we have witnessed over the past decade is a global responsibility that requires a more coordinated and cohesive approach. Responsibility sharing is indeed at the heart of the matter. We have to show solidarity with the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes and the countries carrying the brunt of the responsibility for hosting the refugees. This is why we all here today.

Mr Chair,

Let me first echo the calls for a political solution of the devastating war in Syria. We give our full support to the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in his endeavours to this end. It goes without saying that only an end to the conflict in Syria can ultimately restore safety and dignity to the Syrian people.

While waiting for peace and reconstruction of Syria, we must provide support and protection to those fleeing the conflict in a comprehensive and multifaceted way. Our conference today is part of these broader efforts, building on the success of the London-conference to support Syria and the most affected countries in the region, as well as contributing to relevant discussions in the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May and the High-level meeting in the General Assembly in September.

Sweden welcomes the increased global attention on the Syria refugee situation as well as refugee and migration more broadly this year. We must ensure adequate synergies and coordination between these meetings, we must strive for concrete and tangible outcomes of these meetings and we must deliver on our commitments – starting with the pledges that were made at the London conference.

At the international donors' conference in London in February, Sweden pledged an additional 350 million SEK in humanitarian assistance to those affected by the war in Syria during 2016. Sweden also pledged to provide 1,7 billion SEK over five years in development cooperation through our new Syria crisis strategy. The aim of this strategy is to contribute to strengthening the resilience of the Syrian population and of vulnerable groups in Syria's neighboring countries that are being severely affected by the conflict. Sweden is the first country to adopt a long-term strategy for the Syria crisis of this kind.

In addition to our financial support to people in need in Syria and its neighboring countries, Sweden has continued to provide a safe haven for people fleeing the war and persecution in Syria, as well as other parts of the world. Last year over 163 000 people, 51 000 of those from Syria, applied for asylum in our country - the highest number per capita in all of Europe. Since 2011, 108 000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Sweden, 57 000 of those have so far been granted asylum and with 20 000 family reunifications, over 77 000 Syrians have to date been granted protection in Sweden and many are still awaiting a decision.

While this has undoubtedly put some pressure on the national reception system and local municipalities, Sweden has at the same time stood firm on its commitment on resettlement with our yearly refugee quota of 1 900 people. One-third of our quota is earmarked for refugees in Syria's neighbouring countries. I am pleased to announce that the Swedish Government has decided to gradually increase the number of resettlement places to 5 000 by the end of 2018.

Sweden will continue to work closely with UNHCR and other members in the Core Group on Resettlement for Syrian refugees. You can count on Sweden's continued commitment and support to this important work, including by sharing best practices and by welcoming additional countries to join the resettlement efforts.

Mr Chair,

As have been said many times – no one country alone can solve or take responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis. In that spirit, Sweden is working hard with other EU member states to develop our common EU policy on resettlement and humanitarian admission. Although EU plays a very important role and should absolutely do their part, what we now face is a global challenge that calls for a global response. Some countries far away from the crisis have shown commendable leadership and have welcomed large number of Syrian refugees in their countries. We urge other states to follow this example. If we all do our part and work together, we CAN manage this.

While dealing with the immediate needs of the desperate people that we see on the images from Greece, Turkey, inside Syria and elsewhere, we must also be able to look beyond short-term crisis management and look more broadly on how to improve human mobility and offer more legal pathways for migration in order to meet today's realities and needs.

Sweden therefore welcomes the UN High-level meeting in the General Assembly in September which offers a unique opportunity to look at both short term needs and more long term strategies to strengthen international cooperation and responsibility sharing to deal with both forced displacement and increased human mobility. Sweden will remain very active in the preparation of this Summit and look forward to working closely with other member states and stakeholders in this important process.

Thank you!